I Host a Podcast, Tour the HR Conference Circuit and Hit the Gym Once a Day—Here's How I Make Time for Learning

Ira S. Wolfe

President, Success Performance Solutions

In our Learning Diaries series, seasoned HR and business leaders share how they make time for a critical but often overlooked aspect of their jobs: learning. It's an inside look at how successful people navigate their busy schedules to continuously improve their skills—and advance their careers.

As a prominent speaker on the HR conference circuit, Ira Wolfe needs to stay ahead of current and future trends that impact the world of work. In this week's edition of Learning Diaries, the author, speaker and HR guru gives us a glimpse into how he fits learning and development activities into his jam-packed schedule.

Best Advice For Approaching Learning: "Learning is personal, and everyone learns differently. I tend to learn on-the-fly. I rarely can find the time to read a book or even listen to a book in its entirety, so I often read or watch a video in short bursts."

Biggest Struggle With Learning: "There is just so much to learn. It's both exciting and exhausting. With so many learning materials available online, the biggest limitation to learning is time."

Total Time Spent Learning This Week: 18 dedicated hours

Day One: Podcasts, Print Journals and Newsletters, Oh My!

8:15 AM: This morning, I catch up on newsletters and read articles from the Washington PostWall Street JournalHRdive and ERE Daily. Keeping up with the news cycle is one of the easiest ways to embed learning into the day—staying informed on forces outside your industry helps build an understanding of how they may shape the trends inside it. I also check my email and review offers for new marketing software. It helps me stay educated on products that are on the leading edge of marketing trends.

Favorite email newsletters: Shelly PalmerEREThe Digital HR LeaderSeth Godin's Blog

10:00 AM: It's time to prepare for and shoot today's episode of my podcast, Geek Geezers and Googlization Show. In each episode, I interview a thought leader about trends and challenges in the future of work, like the rise of automation and the challenges of talent management. Every guest on my show teaches me a little something about our industry that I hadn't considered. My guest today is Rob Kelly from Ongig, a job description software company. He discusses the evolution of job descriptions, and how each great job listing requires a high level of detail and customization.

2:30 PM: I spend the rest of the afternoon responding to emails, leads and client phone calls, but I also take time to read some of my favorite HR industry blogs. Reading content from other experts often introduces me to perspectives that I hadn't considered. Just recently, on ReWork, I read about reverse performance reviews, a unique approach to offering employees feedback.

Favorite online blog or magazine: ReWorkOnGigHubspot.

Day Two: Info-Sponging

6:30 AM: Today's early rise is my attempt to get a head start on the tasks of the day. Serial entrepreneur and Priceline co-founder Jeff Hoffman describes this early morning practice as "info-sponging." He spends up to 20 minutes a day reading about something new to him. Building off Hoffman's methodology, I begin my morning practice by delving into a new and unfamiliar topic—today, I explore blockchain. Did you know that while its key applications have traditionally been in the financial services industry, it can also be used to improve recruiting? I sure didn't.

11:15 AM: I receive a LinkedIn message from a new connection. He left an audio recording in the message, which gets my attention. Turns out it's a new and relatively unknown feature that LinkedIn has added to its mobile app. My mind starts racing with ideas for how recruiters can use this, and I make a note to discuss this new feature at my upcoming conference presentations. This bit of learning is a welcome surprise.

Favorite recent article on LinkedIn: 15 Best Articles on People Analytics April 2019

6:30 PM: My wife and I head to the gym. I listen to the news of the day and tune into a podcast. Listening to podcasts is a great way to absorb learning, because it can happen almost passively. You're not sitting at a desk and actively taking steps to learn a new skill or task, and yet you absorb and retain information quite effectively. Podcasts are the ultimate learning/entertainment hybrid.

Favorite podcasts besides my own: Fresh Air and TED Talks Daily.

Day Three: A Jam Packed Keynote

8:45 AM: Today I'm at the Society for Human Resource Management 2019 conference in New York City. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, I attend a few minutes of SHRM CEO Johnny Taylor's keynote. Under his leadership, the society has grown to a record 300,000 members in over 165 countries who impact the lives of 115 million workers every day. His lessons on leadership, which include an emphasis on diversity, inclusion and equality, are truly inspiring.

10:15 AM: It's time for me to present and my sessions and the room is packed. I begin the presentation by asking the audience how many of them use Google for Jobs. To my surprise, no hands go up. This means I'm on track and my content will be new and relevant for everyone. I only have time for one or two questions from attendees, but these questions are important because they provide me feedback: What did I miss? What didn't I explain well enough? I begin to notice patterns in audience reactions, and get a better sense of how I can improve future presentations.

2:45 PM: I've been eagerly waiting for this keynote presentation all day. The speaker is Dima Ghawi, author of Breaking Vases. She shares her experience as a woman living in the Middle East. Sometimes learning opportunities come in the most unexpected ways—it's not just her story that resonates with me, but her method of storytelling. She not only discusses the concept of "breaking vases" to metaphorically represent breaking cultural barriers, but also illustrates her point by breaking the vase she is holding, which certainly gets everyone's attention. This gets me thinking about how I can be more creative in my own presentations.

5:20 PM: My wife and I arrive at a post-event happy hour nearby. We join a gentleman sitting alone in the corner. He's an HR consultant and for the next 60 minutes we enjoy a very engaging conversation. My approach to business and HR differs significantly from his. I tend to live on the bleeding edge of technology, while he, like many of my peers, is a bit more old-school. I suggest we connect on LinkedIn, but he's not on it. Instead he pulls out an address book and asks me to write down my name and number. I find conversations like this simultaneously frustrating and enlightening. It reminds me how diverse the HR industry is, and that we need to walk in one another's shoes every now and then.

Header photo: Creative Commons

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